Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has praised the country’s women’s soccer team – and Spanish society itself – for taking a critical stance against Luis Rubiales for his unwanted kiss of World Cup winner Jennifer Hermoso.
The scandal over the kiss has triggered widespread condemnation in Spain and the rest of the world and has sparked a wider debate about patriarchal and chauvinistic attitudes in the country.
Rubiales, president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has been under mounting pressure to resign since the kiss in the aftermath of the country’s historic win against England in the Women’s World Cup last month.
However, Rubiales – who has said the kiss felt “consensual” – has refused to do so.
Critics say the scandal surrounding the kiss has overshadowed what should have been a time to celebrate a monumental sporting achievement.
Speaking at an event in the city of Malaga in southern Spain on Saturday, Sanchez said he did not believe the scandal had damaged the Spanish brand abroad thanks to the Spanish women’s team.
“I really believe that the Spain brand is the reaction of the female players of our national soccer team and the spectacular reaction of the Spanish society that has joined them in saying ‘it’s over’ – and that it’s over is with all the consequences for all the leaders who have been involved in these unfortunate events,” Sanchez said.
He shared a clip of his speech on X, formerly known as Twitter, and said: “The Spain that is coming is feminist. Whether you like it or not.”
He added that “one could not aspire to represent Spain and make Spain look bad with attitudes and speeches that embarrassed… and did not represent” the country.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
Joining the debate was Vero Boquete, who captained Spain’s women’s national team at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
She told Reuters that Rubiales’ behavior was the “tip of the iceberg” when it came to cultural and systemic problems facing the RFEF and said it was “crazy” that he was still president despite a provisional suspension by FIFA.
The Spanish government has suffered setbacks in its attempts to remove Rubiales from his post.
Spain’s Court of Arbitration in Sport (TAD) on Friday agreed to open a case against Rubiales but rejected the government’s argument that his offenses were “very serious” – preventing his immediate suspension.
Minister of Culture and Sport Miquel Iceta said he would submit a separate complaint to TAD and request Rubiales be removed from his post until the investigation was resolved.
Rubiales, 46, has said he made a mistake kissing Hermoso, 33, but has continued to defend his actions.
He said the kiss was “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and (done) with consent.”
Hermoso has disputed this, saying that she was made to feel “vulnerable and a victim of an impulse-driven, sexist, out of place act without any consent.”
“Simply put I was not respected,” she said.
The soccer world has rallied behind Hermoso. FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales and provisionally suspended him from all soccer related activities while sports unions have called for “immediate disciplinary action” against Rubiales.
In defense of her son, 71-year-old Ángeles Béjar locked herself in a church on hunger strike to protest what she called an “inhumane, bloodthirsty hunt.”